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Stay Safe This Winter

Winter weather presents safety challenges inside and outside the home. Being prepared and following these safety recommendations can help you stay safe and warm.

Assemble a disaster kit

Prepare and maintain a disaster kit for your home before winter weather arrives. According to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, it should contain:

  • First aid kit and essential medicines

  • Battery-powered radio, flashlight, lamps, and extra batteries

  • Battery-powered watch or clock

  • An alternate way to heat your home such as dry firewood if you have a fireplace or wood stove or kerosene for a kerosene heater

  • Furnace fuel (coal, propane, or oil)

  • Electric space heater with automatic shut-off switch and non-glowing elements

  • Multi-purpose, dry-chemical fire extinguisher

  • Matches

  • Blankets

  • Non-perishable food items such as energy bars, canned food, and a can opener

  • Water (at least 1 gallon of water per person per day to last at least 3 days)

  • Extra-warm clothing, including boots, mittens, and a hat

  • Snow shovel

  • Rock salt

Avoid traveling by car

If you must drive, be sure your car contains a survival kit with extra-warm clothing, a flashlight and extra batteries, flares, extra food, a bag of sand or cat litter (for traction), and a car cell-phone charger.

In addition, you should:

  • Keep your car's gas tank full for emergency use and to keep the fuel line from freezing.

  • Use wintertime formula in your windshield washer.

  • Let someone know your destination, your route, and when you expect to arrive. If you get stuck along the way, help can be sent along your predetermined route.

  • If you do become stranded, stay with your car unless safety is no more than 100 yards away. Put a bright cloth on the antenna to stay visible. Only run the engine and heater for 10 minutes every hour, but first make sure your tailpipe is not blocked.

Understand wind chill

When you combine the air temperature with the wind speed, the temperature your body feels is the wind chill index.

If possible, stay indoors during winter storms. If you must go outside, wear several layers of clothing, gloves or mittens, and a hat to prevent loss of body heat.

Wind chill increases the rate at which heat is carried away from the body. The faster the wind, the faster the body's temperature is driven down.

Learn about watches and warnings

When bad weather threatens, listen to National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) Weather Radio and your local radio and TV stations for updated storm information:

  • A winter storm watch means a winter storm is possible in your area.

  • A winter storm warning means a winter storm is headed for your area.

  • A blizzard warning means strong winds, blinding wind-driven snow, and dangerous wind chill are expected.

Shovel carefully

If the storm drops lots of snow, be careful shoveling. Warm up before you begin by stretching your back, legs, and arms. Take frequent breaks and stop if you become fatigued or have shortness of breath or muscle strain.

Push snow in front of you if you can. If you have to lift it, pick up small amounts and lift with your legs, not your back. Don't toss snow over your shoulder.

Date Last Reviewed: 8/1/2018
© 2000-2019 The StayWell Company, LLC. 800 Township Line Road, Yardley, PA 19067. All rights reserved. This information is not intended as a substitute for professional medical care. Always follow your healthcare professional's instructions.
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